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#1245306 - 08/07/09 11:06 AM too much expression?
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1644
Loc: northern California
This is a sensitive topic that I feel the need to start a thread on, just hoping I can communicate it without being offensive eek, here goes:

Do you have students who play with too much expression? Extraneous, distracting moving around, arm moving, wrist lifting, weaving on the bench, etc.? Something that they were taught to do with another teacher perhaps? Picture a child playing a Beethoven sonatina with this type of moving around.
As his new teacher, I want to encourage expression, of course.
But when it's too much and distracting? I'm curious as to how you handle this.
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#1245308 - 08/07/09 11:12 AM Re: too much expression? [Re: Barb860]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
I have a gal, and I've mentioned her before, that rocks. She doesn't rock to the beat, but just rocks. I have tried telling her to sit still, showing her how to rock to the beat, nothing seems to help.

When she was littler she would swing her legs, not to the beat either.

I also have an ADHD 10 y/o boy (I mention it because I think it's relevant) that uses his whole body to push down the pedals! It's funny to watch smile. He can't do anything half-way, it's all or nothing smile

Both are too much and distracting, but I haven't' figured out how to handle it yet wink Maybe I'll get some ideas here too.
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#1245317 - 08/07/09 11:22 AM Re: too much expression? [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
LVP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/09
Posts: 289
Loc: Vermont
I used to tutor little kids and I had a lot with ADD/ADHD. They would often jiggle and fuss in their seats to the point of not being able to hear what I was saying.

I used to do two things- one was to institute a dancing/wiggling break when they were having trouble concentrating (like, "Ok, now let's take three minutes to dance and wiggle every part of our selves to the radio, and then back to math!!!). You could even accompany a little dance break!

I also used to ask the parents to schedule some active outside time before tutoring so that they wouldn't have too much pent up energy!

Good luck!
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#1245327 - 08/07/09 11:59 AM Re: too much expression? [Re: LVP]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1644
Loc: northern California
This student I'm talking about is not in the ADD category. This is someone who is using unnatural, extraneous over-the-top expressive movements in his playing. Example: lifting wrists really high and waving arms. Perhaps he was taught these movements and they are now exagerated to the point that it gets in the way of his playing.
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#1245332 - 08/07/09 12:13 PM Re: too much expression? [Re: Barb860]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1048
Originally Posted By: Barb860
Do you have students who play with too much expression? Extraneous, distracting moving around, arm moving, wrist lifting, weaving on the bench, etc.?


This sounds like a good description of what shouldn't be done. I suppose there are two questions to ask. First "does the movement visually add to or detract from the music?", and second "do the movements impact the quality of the playing?" For example, with arms flapping around, the accuracy might suffer.

I once saw a video of myself playing and was kind of embarassed about how I moved around. Now every time I play in front of an audience I am worried about how I look.

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#1245336 - 08/07/09 12:19 PM Re: too much expression? [Re: Arghhh]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3162
Loc: Virginia, USA
Is it really a big deal, worth making an issue over?

Does it fundamentally limit their technique, in a manner that will have an effect for that student's likely musical career? (a student destined for a career as a concert pianist may need to be held to a stricter standard than one who is playing for personal enrichment, etc.)

Are they having fun? It sounds like it.

I move when I play or sing. It may not be as extreme as your student, I dunno, but I see people who move much less and much more than I. There is a wide variation available before you get so off balance you can't play - and even a few who seem to exceed that and still do well.

I think if they were making progress in other ways I'd be inclined to let that one go. Pick your battles.
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#1245378 - 08/07/09 01:34 PM Re: too much expression? [Re: TimR]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
My son moves when he plays. He had a teacher who didn't like it. Spent a lot of time focussed on it. Said my son's expression should be coming from his fingers, not his body. The teacher found it quite distracting.

I don't think there was anything extreme or dangerous about his movement, or that interrupted his technique. I knew my son was talented and musical, and I was frustrated listening to the teacher spend week after week on this, but my son liked the teacher so I let it go. He managed to convince my son that something was wrong with him, and he quit liking piano or thinking that he was any good at it. I finally had enough (let it go on for 3 years) and made him switch teachers. He was mad at me for a couple weeks, then came and thanked me. He still moves (although he plays his other instrument more than piano - moves there, too.) Gets lots of comments on how expressive he is, and he is a lot of fun to watch.

I think if you see something particularly inappropriate, you could concentrate on that one action. But some people just have to dance!
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#1245428 - 08/07/09 03:24 PM Re: too much expression? [Re: TimR]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1644
Loc: northern California
Originally Posted By: TimR
Is it really a big deal, worth making an issue over?

Does it fundamentally limit their technique, in a manner that will have an effect for that student's likely musical career? (a student destined for a career as a concert pianist may need to be held to a stricter standard than one who is playing for personal enrichment, etc.)

Are they having fun? It sounds like it.

I move when I play or sing. It may not be as extreme as your student, I dunno, but I see people who move much less and much more than I. There is a wide variation available before you get so off balance you can't play - and even a few who seem to exceed that and still do well.

I think if they were making progress in other ways I'd be inclined to let that one go. Pick your battles.


The student does not appear to be comfortable with the moving around and his movements are not natural, they are exagerated and distracting, even percussive. I agree that picking our battles and letting this issue go could be the right thing to do. Perhaps as he learns new material, he will let go of some of the moving around if I am not asking him to add any in, if that makes sense. What I am gently trying to say here is that it appears the kid has learned to play this way. I'm not saying it's wrong, I just feel it's not comfortable for the student and too much.
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#1245446 - 08/07/09 03:58 PM Re: too much expression? [Re: Barb860]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3162
Loc: Virginia, USA
He may just be an awkward kid, and you're picking that up.

In general it is harder to tell somebody not to do something than to do something else that conflicts with it.

Like, I dunno, never say "don't play with flat fingers" if you can say "please play that with fingers curved like this." Positive works better than negative if you can figure out how to ask for it.
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#1245485 - 08/07/09 05:33 PM Re: too much expression? [Re: TimR]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Pick out some really calm music and ask him to allow his body to demonstrate calmness as well?

You can tell people the emotion comes from the fingers and not the body but until you show them exactly how to do that, they'll likely try to "play with emotion" by body movements...
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